Background

Epidemic-prone infectious diseases still pose a serious public health threat in many countries and the risk of the spread of infectious diseases has increased due to global travel and trade. Hemorrhagic fever viruses like Lassa Virus, Yellow Fever Virus, Rift Valley Fever Virus, Marburg Virus, and Ebola Virus, which belong to the high and highest risk groups 3 and 4, are either endemic or frequently cause epidemic outbreaks in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. These outbreaks pose serious challenges to local health services and international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF) and the international scientific community. Most important of all, these infections may have high a lethality, patients suffering from these infections take long time to recover, and communities may be left devastated by them.

On an international level, there are strategies in place to respond to infectious disease outbreaks and response is coordinated through WHO’s Global Outbreak and Response Network (GOARN). Under GOARN’s framework technical and human resources are coordinated to bring together the highest level of international expertise to tackle these outbreaks.

The diagnostic dilemma of viral fevers and viral hemorrhagic fevers arises from the fact that they clinically mimic a wide range of diseases, which makes a clinical diagnosis in affected patients difficult if not impossible. To enable the identification of pathogens and the diagnosis in each individual patient, sophisticated cutting-edge molecular diagnostics, serological methods and technologies are required. Until now, the diagnostic capacity that can be deployed internationally to the vicinity of the patients has been limited. 

Therefore the EuropAid – DG Development and Cooperation (DevCo) office of the European Commission has set up the collaborative project "Establishment of Mobile Laboratories up to Risk Group 4 in Combination with CBRN Capacity Building in Sub-Saharan Africa" (Project reference: IFS/2011 / 272-372). The project, which is to last four years, will increase the capacity in Europe and Africa to respond to infectious disease outbreaks and will strengthen the collaboration between scientists on both continents.